Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chance of a Lifetime (Or...Monthtime?)

Let's talk resolutions. It's a good news/bad news situation over here for me. Bad news first---I've been an awful blogger for the past week (maybe 2). Started strong, but had a relapse. My bad!
Good news--I have been doing a fantastic job keeping ahead of the game at school. So good, in fact, that I am all planned & ready to go for February. Yes, you heard me right! February, meet your match.
Because I am feeling so great about this, and because my blogging has been less than stellar lately, I have a special giveaway. Readers, I'd like to introduce you to my (and your!) new best friend:
Included in this beauty, you will find:
  • Literacy Stations
  • Math Stations
  • Word Wall Words
  • Morning Work
  • Interactive Poetry & Activities
  • Science Experiments & Activities
  • Read-Alouds & Activities
  • Classroom games
  • 100th Day Pack

To win this steal of a deal, simply enter the Rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! :)


Sunday, January 12, 2014

I Have a Dream...

I don't even know where to start with this post.

           Teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my favorite things about my job, hands down. One might think that it would be a fine line to walk dealing with such young students, but in all honesty, it is their youthful bliss to ignorance of the past that makes this such a rewarding unit to teach. Every year, the kids are purely blown away and appalled at the laws and conditions that existed way before they can even fathom. 
           It's hard for them to imagine such social norms when they live in a 21st century world where race is becoming more and more insignificant. What they can fathom; however, is the atrocity of the inequitable laws that affected so many. I wish I could capture their faces, expressions, and questions every time I introduce them to the world pre-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The world (today and long ago) could learn a lot from these open-minded, innocent souls!
            Recently, I was tutoring a little one, and we were reading this Reading A-Z book about George Washington Carver. We came to multiple points in the book that highlight George's struggle to get an education based on his race, and this sweet little boy looked up at me with wide eyes and said, "I can't believe this actually happened! It's so weird!" It's so refreshing to witness such a blank slate at work, and it gives me hope for the generation that we are teaching. Brings tears to my eyes!
            With that being said, it is very important to me to use every minute & every second of our social studies block this month to communicate Dr. King's message to my students. We focus a lot on his "I Have a Dream" speech and use this opportunity to discuss ways in which they want to change the world for the better. This might be my favorite project we do all year:

While teaching in such a military-heavy community, this dream tugs extremely at my heartstrings. 

To create this project, I take photographs of the students and encourage them to show me their best "thinking pose" and snap away. Once the photos are printed, we cut along the outline (sometimes I utilize my fabulous parent volunteers for this task) and glue onto a piece of black construction paper. Then, I print copies of  this thinking bubble and the students write their dream for the world. Click below for  copy:

 I wish I had an entire album dedicated to the dreams of my students, but I promise you that if you do this with your own, you will be rewarded year after year. Enjoy and may peace be with you!

To download my entire MLK pack, please visit my TPT store here.

Erin :)

Credits: Thinking bubble from Krista Wallden; Font from Kimberly Geswein

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Go Mrs. Waters, It's Your Birthday!

Okay, so I will be the first to admit---I LOVE birthdays! I will also be the first to admit...I also love my own birthday. I have slowly trained introduced my husband to the joy of the celebration of birthdays, so it should be no surprise that I am gearing up for a blog-worthy birthday celebration as well! Because I am so fortunate to be alive on this earth for yet another day of birth celebration, I wanted to share the wealth with you all! Behold, my 28th birthday sale at my Teachers Pay Teachers store! This also doubles as a back-to-school blues sale, so it's all in all a great situation :)

I highly recommend you check out my most favorite item in my store, and also my best-seller. This little product has been an absolute life-saver in my guided reading groups. Check it out!

Happy birthday to me! 

Erin :)


Sunday, January 5, 2014

200 TPT Followers Giveaway: Enter to WIN 20 K-2 Products!

It's that time again, oh faithful readers! I love the blogging world and Teachers Pay Teachers for so many reasons, but most of all, I love its ability to connect me with so many amazing teachers from all over the world! I am beyond humbled and thrilled to be celebrating 200 followers over at Teachers Pay Teachers and would love to spread my joy and thank you for all that you do for the teaching world. I have teamed up with 20 fantastic teachers to present to you a multitude of fabulous teaching resources that are up for grabs! Check out the wonderful items and enter to win 20 K-2 products below! Good luck :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Very Hungry...Classroom Decoration!

If you're anything like me, you always have an eye out for cute new ideas for the classroom. I constantly have my camera at the ready, a notebook on hand, and an eye/ear open for creativity--it's all around us! I have learned that inspiration can be found in the most unexpected of places.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting a dear friend from high school who just had her first baby. Baby Cora is too cute, and has a nursery to match! Because my friend did not find out the sex of the baby prior to the birth, she and her husband opted for a gender neutral decoration theme for the baby's nursery. Imagine my delight when they decided upon a Very Hungry Caterpillar theme---it is just as adorable as you are imagining! I immediately whipped my phone out to take photos of every inch of the nursery. There was one item; however, that really caught my eye. Check out the caterpillar of the year:
How. Amazing. Is. This. Her parents made it by connecting paper lanterns to a branch and cutting out circles for the eyes. I'm not sure I'd include the tinsel, but holy cuteness! 
In our classroom, we celebrate an Author of the Month through an author study, and Eric Carle just so happens to be coming up. You better believe I'll be creating one of these for our unit! Just wonderful. I'm thinking it can go in our reading nook. I can just see it now! What cost-effective, creative projects have inspired you and made their way into your classroom? I'd love to see pictures or hear ideas!

If you celebrate Eric Carle in your classroom, make sure to check out my Very Hungry Caterpillar unit in my TPT store. Lots of math and literacy products to go along with your studies! 

Erin :)


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

10 Classroom Resolutions: New Year, New(ish) Classroom

Every year as the new year approaches, my mind is filled with a long list of promises I commit to making to myself. With each new year, comes a fresh start. While that sounds all fine and dandy, the reality of it is that most resolutions last a couple of days, maybe a month if I'm lucky.
This year, I'm switching gears. I've been itching to change things up in my classroom after we get back from break, so I'm putting my resolution energy into some small, realistic changes that will be (hopefully) easy to make. Here we go:
1. Guided reading groups first thing in the morning: Our language arts block is a bit broken up a few days a week this year due to specials and Spanish, so I've been experimenting with 2 reading groups first thing in the morning during morning work. This way, we aren't so rushed to fit them in during language arts block on those jam-packed days.
2. Better record-keeping. I've definitely improved the pace with which I grade things, but I'd like to find a system of record keeping that really, truly works for me. I've tried anecdotal notebooks, sticky notes/labels transferred to grade books, checklists, you name it! I have a few ideas up my sleeve and will really focus on consistency of one method.
3.More "craftivities." This is what first grade is all about! In the shuffle of assessments, specials, paperwork, and state standards, it's easy to lose sight of the true spirit of the classroom. We've done craftivities regularly but I'd like to incorporate more! Here is one we did for our Leo Lionni author study unit:

4. Weekend Reads program. We practiced this the week before break, and I'm super excited about it! Every week, the students take home the books from their guided reading groups in their "Book Buddy" bag. Beginning this upcoming week, students will "shop" every Friday to choose 2 books to take home for the weekend. For now, these books will come from our take-home collection, but as we exhaust that supply, we can eventually move on to classroom library books. This also helps to reinforce books that are "just right" for the kiddos. For an awesome chart for the classroom, check out this little treasure I found for free and LOVE!
Just Right Books FREE

5. More notes home. I love sending personalized positive notes home and am typically good about this, but need more of a systematic way to track who gets notes when. I'm thinking I will send one per month for each student. I will begin each month with a box of note cards already addressed to each student. This way, I can peek in the box to see who still needs a note sent home :)
6. Keep my e-mail box cleaned out! How awful is it when I go to send an e-mail super quick in between transitions or while the kids are at lunch and I have to spend 5 minutes just cleaning out old e-mails in order to send a new one? Our district uses Outlook and it fills up FAST.
7. Take more pictures! I am hit or miss with this. Some days, I feel like the classroom paparazzi, while other times, there are no pictures for days! I also need a better way of organizing the pictures once they are taken. I've downloaded Dropbox, so that is a start. Any suggestions about how you organize pictures from your classroom? I'm all ears!
8. Smoother end of the day transition. I don't know about you, but our last 10 minutes are completely bananas! Sheesh! I plan to implement the end of the day jar in hopes of calming the excited little ones. This will also be a good reflection time for our class. I am interested to see how this goes and will keep you posted!
9. Stay more organized. This will be on my list for the rest of my life. Every year, I get better, but every year, I find more areas for improvement. Such is the life of a teacher! This is one of my most favorite organizational epiphanies this year--more on this later ;)

10. Blog more! This isn't directly related to the classroom, but it is an educational goal of mine. It does indirectly benefit my classroom, as I gain ideas as well as share them, so we will count it. The more you blog, the more you know :)
And there you have it! What are your resolutions for your classroom? Did I forget anything? If you would like an extra jumpstart for your classroom this new year, be sure to check out this deal on Educents. It is a $46 bundle of time-savers and management tools, but it is currently selling for $10.99!!!! I am already printing and laminating several of the items as we speak, so I definitely encourage you to check it out :)

Happy New Year! Here's to a wonderful 2014! 

Erin :)

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